Nuclear HIDA (gallbladder) scan is a test
that is done to evaluate
function. It can detect blockage in the tubes
(bile ducts) that lead from the liver to the
gallbladder and small intestine (duodenum).
During a nuclear HIDA scan, a
substance is injected into a vein in the arm.
The liver removes the tracer from the
bloodstream and adds it to the bile that
normally flows through the bile ducts to the
gallbladder. The gallbladder then releases the
tracer into the beginning of the small
intestine. The scanning pictures are taken as
the tracer moves through the liver, bile ducts,
gallbladder, and duodenum.
Why It Is Done
nuclear HIDA scan is done to:
Help determine the cause of pain in the upper right
side of the abdomen.
Evaluate the function of the gallbladder. A
gallbladder ultrasound may be done before a
nuclear HIDA scan to help detect structural problems
in the gallbladder. If the ultrasound is normal, a
nuclear HIDA scan often is done to evaluate
Help determine the cause of
Detect blockage of the tubes (bile ducts) leading
from the liver to the gallbladder and small
How To Prepare
nuclear HIDA scan, tell your doctor if:
You are or might be pregnant.
You are breast-feeding. Use formula (discard your
breast milk) for 1 to 2 days after the scan until
the radioactive tracer has been eliminated from your
Within the past 4 days, you have had an X-ray test
using barium contrast material (such as a
or have taken a medication (such as Pepto-Bismol)
that contains bismuth. Barium and bismuth can
interfere with test results.
Do not eat for
4 hours before having a nuclear HIDA scan.
How It Is Done
nuclear HIDA scan is usually done by a nuclear medicine technologist.
The scan pictures are usually interpreted by a
or nuclear medicine specialist.
You will need
to remove any jewelry that might interfere with the
scan. You may need to take off all or most of your
clothes, depending on which area is being examined (you
may be allowed to keep on your underwear if it does not
interfere with the test). You will be given a cloth or
paper covering to use during the test.
technologist cleans the site on your arm where the
radioactive tracer will be injected. A small amount of
the radioactive tracer is then injected.
You will lie on
your back on a table and a large scanning camera will be
positioned closely above your abdomen. After the
radioactive tracer is injected, the camera will scan for
radiation released by the tracer and produce pictures as
the tracer passes through your liver and into your
gallbladder and small intestine. The first pictures will
be taken immediately after the injection, and then about
every 5 to 10 minutes for up to the next 1½ hours. Each
scan takes only a few minutes. You need to lie very
still during each scan to avoid blurring the pictures.
The camera does not produce any radiation, so you are
not exposed to any additional radiation while the scan
is being done.
(cholecystokinin) that stimulates the gallbladder may
also be injected into your vein during the scans. The
pictures taken after this injection can help determine
whether the gallbladder is functioning normally.
Computer analysis of the data may be used to evaluate
gallbladder function. You may be asked to answer
questions about your reaction to the cholecystokinin.
Occasionally medication (morphine sulfate) is given to
help diagnose inflammation of the gallbladder.
your results, additional scans may be taken up to a day
later. If you need to return for another nuclear HIDA
scan, you should not eat any fatty foods before you
nuclear HIDA scan takes about 1 to 2 hours.
How It Feels
You may feel
nothing at all from the needle puncture when the tracer
is injected, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as
the needle goes through the skin. Otherwise, a
nuclear HIDA scan is usually painless. You may find it
difficult to remain still during the scan. Ask for a
pillow or blanket to make yourself as comfortable as
possible before the scan begins.
The test may be
uncomfortable if you are having abdominal pain. Try to
relax by breathing slowly and deeply.
cholecystokinin is used during the test, it may cause
nausea or abdominal pain. The development of these
symptoms during the test may indicate a problem with
your gallbladder. The technologist may ask you about
changes in your pain during the test.
to the radioactive tracer are rare. Most of the tracer
will be eliminated from your body (through your urine or
stool) within a day, so be sure to promptly flush the
toilet and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and
water. The amount of radiation is so small that it is
not a risk for people to come in contact with you
following the test.
some soreness or swelling may develop at the injection
site. These symptoms can usually be relieved by applying
moist, warm compresses to your arm.
There is always
a slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from being
exposed to any radiation, including the low level of
radiation released by the radioactive tracer used for
nuclear HIDA scan is a
that is done to evaluate
function. The results of a nuclear HIDA scan are usually
available within 2 days.